Sunday, January 11, 2015

Soen - Tellurian [2014]

It might seem unrealistic considering how lowly it was received last year, but Soen's ''Tellurian'' manages to simultaneously break boundaries and stray from a shadow which was cast upon the band with its 2012 debut ''Cognitive''. The band had been blamed for being too much of a Tool drone, but the sheer memorability of this album and its vivid albeit contained ambition to debunk the band's formative curse as a clone band shines through almost perfectly, catapulting it into the very top of my end of the year list. Even for a guy who finds most progressive metal prosaically obsessed with inner complexities, I found new pleasures to be sought with this record. While there can be little doubt that the band's expose owes its greatness to the existence of heavy metal master bassist (Steve DiGorgio, with whom you should be familiar enough), Martin Lopez at the drums and Joel Ekelöf's haunting clean voice, its real quality lies in the fact that it's so good without actually being too divisive...

''Tellurian'' pushes the very limits of emotional conjuration through the power of Ekelöf's poignant tone and excellent performance and especially with the progressively melodious current running through the singular guitar work. There is a sound adherent to Tool - the fat guitar tone and semi-progressive touches flirting with the emotive atmosphere of the album - but the relative simplicity of the riffs strikes me as artfully powerful; and there's no lack of clean interludes either: the subtle, mournful accompaniment of the guitars is what makes songs like the beautiful ''The Words'' such majestically crafted pieces. That said, the drums are wonderfully percussive but in no way overdone, with some superb fills here and there, and the dynamics range of the record creeps rather momentously with its variation of rhythms, riffs and percussion. I love how Ekelöf's mystifying cleans contrast with the bulky outings of the guitar. And, let's admit it, while Ekelöf doesn't particularly enlarge the boundaries vocal performance, with one very akin to Mikael Akerfeldt's with Opeth's ''Pale Communion'', - especially with the multifarious acoustic and clean interludes and diving in and out of the songs - he does make this record an incredible joy to revisit countless times.

Perhaps the mastering could have handled with greater care, though. Indeed, much of Tellurian's dynamic qualities stem from its delicacy and moody swings from riff to riff, melancholia to overwhelming choruses, from dainty pieces to hard-hitting discharges - and the loudness of the record fails to do these aesthetics complete justice. The record seems confined, but it's so full potentials and fresh sounds - yet the guitars and drums in many respects are simply too loud. Still, there's much fun to be had. For one, the quartet masterfully craft exhaustively good choruses, bustling with beauty and atmospheric splendor. It might seem too much to ask for a progressive metal record, but Soen pull through marvelously. By substituting the mathematical intricacy of Dream Theater-turned-Cynic record, Soen transcend needless complexities and baffling convolutions into musical greatness and overcome technically leprous syllabic patterns. Sure, they may have been one or two occasions where the riffs felt repeated, but in general the vocal work is unbelievably varied (also thanks to arbitrary backing vocals) and the guitar riffs represent sufficient diversity in granular outbursts and melodious patterns to hook the uninterested listener.

And the groove! From the verse riff of ''Tabula Rasa'' with its 70's feel to the utter headbanging pleasure one would derive from ''Void'', ''Tellurian'' is abound with groovy, moody momentum.
Soen stop at nothing; employing a diverse range of pianos, symphonic sequences and other instruments especially during the slower sections of album and it's just phenomenal. They might be a little short on outings, but the album is so damn good that it might just as well transform Soen into a progressive metal act to whom I would pay lip service to - and that, folks, is not a regular occasion when it comes the genre in particular. There's not a track I didn't enjoy, from my first loves (''Tabula Rasa'' and ''Kuraman'') to the ballad and crowning track of the album (''The Words'') to ''Pluton'' to the almost avant-garde epic and finale ''The Others' Fall'', even though, all told, there may have been 3-4 minutes on the album that didn't completely overwhelm me. Understandably, ''Tellurian'' made it to few end of the year lists, possibly because it isn't extreme or directly appealing to a lot of people. Or fresh. But I would have to disagree. The unlikely contrast between the music and the grotesquely awesome cover art (A rhino having shish and curled up humans with chopsticks for fuck's sake!--something Japan's Sigh would have fancied, I imagine) is just a strange addition to the list of things I love about this album. It beckons with ebbing reverb of the final track, luring us inside it, one chopstick-full of listeners at a time.


Rating: 92%